“We teach people how to treat us.” (Dr Phil)
Toxic people are everywhere, and one of them will find you if you give them a chance. They range from overbearing parents or others in the family who know how we should live our lives, to addicts and alcoholics, and sometimes to violent abusers. You might have heard words like this “You make me like this, it’s your fault.” or “I drink because of you.” or “I only lose my temper when you …”
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In my extended family, I have a cousin who came under the control of an abusive man. She tells this story in churches, and this is my summary. As a young woman, I think a teenager, she met an older man and then moved in with him. They never did marry and she was a Christian. After some time, she realized that the man was controlling and abusive, and she needed to get out. One day they had a conversation, probably an argument, and she started walking to the door. That’s when he stood in front of her and blocked her exit. He was stronger than her and he could have beaten her, or worse. She was trapped by a toxic abuser in a prison that he built for her, and there was no way out.
But she was a Christian, and he looked past her, as if something was behind her, and got a look of fear on his face. He meekly let her walk past him and out the door. She never went back, and some time later she met a good man and married him, and now they have a life with their family, on the west coast. I remember that their kids were cute. Now they have their own business and possibly also grandchildren. I haven’t seen them for a few years, but all the news is good.
I call that walking in the sunshine, after stepping out of the darkness. My cousin is convinced that God sent an angel into that room, to guard her from that dangerous man and that angel scared him. God has many resources, but they were no used until she exercised her executive function, or in Christian language, she did the walk of faith. Left foot, right foot, and God opened a way.
Whatever disturbing issues made that man toxic, she did not drink the poison with him.
When I was a boy, we had some neighbors that I liked, except that the husband and father was an abusive drunk. He seemed nice when he was sober and I was friends with some of the kids in the family, but I think he was an alcoholic. He was a huge man and his wife was thin and frail.
One night he came home drunk and collapsed on the front lawn. He was safe there, and he just couldn’t crawl up the stairs to the front door. This was a big embarrassment to the family, and his tiny wife went outside and somehow got him off the ground and into the house. She could have injured herself, and obviously, over many years, she gave up the happiness in her life to compensate for his drinking.
Enabling is really nurturing and protecting a demon. Over years, that man destroyed his life, surrounded by his protective family, and he ruined their lives. They supported his sickness, not him, and he might have searched for help, but they made sure he didn’t feel the need. He never had to confront the consequences of his sick behaviour, his family took the consequences for him.
They agreed to drink his poison. She should have left him lying on the lawn and possibly called the police. He might be alive today without her enabling.
The problem is always with us, the victims of toxic people. Misery needs a support team.
Jesus gave us the way out of these prisons: “As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. Come, follow Me, Jesus said, and I will make you fishers of men. And at once they left their nets and followed Him”
I now realize that Jesus never called us to go to boring church services and have no fun. He told us to stop drinking the poison, and to be free. If we get busy following Him, we have less time in our schedule for controlling and toxic people, and they will lose interest in us. We won’t be useful to them.
Follow Jesus or feed a demon, that is the stark choice for many of us. I am happy that my cousin made the right choice, and if you need it, I hope you can find the same escape. If this does not apply to you, someone in your life fits the profile. It’s a common human condition.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones. (Proverbs 3:5 to 8)
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. For through wisdom your days will be many, and years will be added to your life. If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you; if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer. (Proverbs 9:10 to 12)